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THE LIFE OF THE SPIRIT AND THE SOCIAL ORDER
We have come to the last chapter of this book; and I am conscious that those who have had the patience to follow its argument from the beginning, may now feel a certain sense of incompleteness. They will observe that, though many things have been said about the life of the Spirit, not a great deal seems to have been said, at any rate directly, about the second half of the title—the life of to-day—and especially about those very important aspects of our modern active life which are resumed in the word Social. This avoidance has been, at least in part, intentional. We have witnessed in this century a violent revulsion from the individualistic type of religion; a revulsion which parallels upon-its own levels, and indeed is a part of, the revolt from Victorian individualism in political economic life. Those who come much into contact with students, and with the younger and more vigorous clergy, are aware how far this revolt has proceeded: how completely, in the minds of those young people who are interested in religion, the Social Gospel now overpowers all other aspects of the spiritual life. Again and again we are assured by the most earnest among them that in their view religion is a social activity, and service is its proper expression: that all valid knowledge of God is social, and He is chiefly known in mankind: that the use of prayer is mainly social, in that it improves us for service, otherwise it must be condemned as a merely selfish activity: finally, that the true meaning and value of suffering are social too. A visitor to a recent Swanwick Conference of the Student Christian Movement has publicly expressed his regret that some students still seemed to be concerned with the problems of their own spiritual life; and were not prepared to let that look after itself, whilst they started straight off to work for the social realization of the Kingdom of God. When a great truth becomes exaggerated to this extent, and is held to the exclusion of its compensating opposite, it is in a fair way to becoming a lie. And we have here, I think, a real confusion of ideas which will, if allowed to continue, react unfavourably upon the religion of the future; because it gives away the most sacred conviction of the idealist, the belief in the absolute character of spiritual values, and in the effort to win them as the great activity of man. Social service, since it is one form of such an effort, a bringing in of more order, beauty, joy, is a fundamental duty—the fundamental duty—of the active life. Man does not truly love the Perfect until he is driven thus to seek its incarnation in the world of time. No one doubts this. All spiritual teachers have said it, in one way or another, for centuries. The mere fact that they feel impelled to teach at all, instead of saying "My secret to myself"—which is so much easier and pleasanter to the natural contemplative—is a guarantee of the claim to service which they feel that love lays upon them. But this does not make such service of man, however devoted, either the same thing as the search for, response to, intercourse with God; or, a sufficient substitute for these specifically spiritual acts.
Plainly, we are called upon to strive with all our power to bring in the Kingdom; that is, to incarnate in the time world the highest spiritual values which we have known. But our ability to do this is strictly dependent on those values being known, at least by some of us, at first-hand; and for this first-hand perception, as we have seen, the soul must have a measure of solitude and silence. Therefore, if the swing-over to a purely social interpretation of religion be allowed to continue unchecked, the result can only be an impoverishment of our spiritual life; quite as far-reaching and as regrettable as that which follows from an unbridled individualism. Without the inner life of prayer and-meditation, lived for its own sake and for no utilitarian motive, neither our judgments upon the social order nor our active social service will be perfectly performed; because they will not be the channel of Creative Spirit expressing itself through us in the world of to-day.
Christ, it is true, gives nobody any encouragement for supposing that a merely self-cultivating sort of spirituality, keeping the home fires burning and so on, is anybody's main job. The main job confided to His friends is the preaching of the Gospel. That is, spreading Reality, teaching it, inserting it into existence; by prayers, words, acts, and also if need be by manual work, and always under the conditions and symbolisms of our contemporary world. But since we can only give others that which we already possess, this presupposes that we have got something of Reality as a living, burning fire in ourselves. The soul's two activities of reception and donation must be held in balance, or impotence and unreality will result. It is only out of the heart of his own experience that man really helps his neighbour: and thus there is an ultimate social value in the most secret responses of the soul to grace. No one, for instance, can help others to repentance who has not known it at first-hand. Therefore we have to keep the home fires burning, because they are the fires which raise the steam that does the work: and we do this mostly by the fuel with which we feed them, though partly too by giving free access to currents of fresh air from the outer world.
We cannot read St. Paul's letters with sympathy and escape the conviction that in the midst of his great missionary efforts he was profoundly concerned too with the problems of his own inner life. The little bits of self-revelation that break into the epistles and, threaded together, show us the curve of his growth, also show us how much, lay behind them, how intense, and how exacting was the inward travail that accompanied his outward deeds. Here he is representative of the true apostolic type. It is because St. Augustine is the man of the "Confessions" that he is also the creator of "The City of God." The regenerative work of St. Francis was accompanied by an unremitting life of penitence and recollection. Fox and Wesley, abounding in labours, yet never relaxed the tension of their soul's effort to correspond with a transcendent Reality. These and many other examples warn us that only by such a sustained and double movement can the man of the Spirit actualize all his possibilities and do his real work. He must, says Ruysbroeck, "both ascend and descend with love."149149 "The Mirror of Eternal Salvation," Cap. 7. On any other basis he misses the richness of that fully integrated human existence "swinging between the unseen and the seen" in which the social and individual, incorporated and solitary responses to the demands of Spirit are fully carried through. Instead, he exhibits restriction and lack balance. This in the end must react as unfavourably on the social as on the personal side of life: since the place and influence of the spiritual life in the social order will depend entirely on its place in the individual consciousness of which that social order will be built, the extent in which loyalty to the one Spirit governs their reactions to common daily experience.
Here then, as in so much else, the ideal is not an arbitrary choice but a struck balance. First, a personal contact with Eternal Reality, deepening, illuminating and enlarging all of our experience of fact, all our responses to it: that is, faith. Next, the fullest possible sense of our membership of and duty towards the social organism, a completely rich, various, heroic, self-giving, social life: that is, charity. The dissociation of these two sides of human experience is fatal to that divine hope which should crown and unite them; and which represents the human instinct for novelty in a sublimated form.
It is of course true that social groups may be regenerated. The success of such group-formations as the primitive Franciscans, the Friends of God, the Quakers, the Salvation Army, demonstrates this. But groups, in the last resort, consist of individuals, who must each be regenerated one by one; whose outlook, if they are to be whole men, must include in its span abiding values as well as the stream of time, and who, for the full development of this their two-fold destiny, require each a measure both of solitude and of association. Hence it follows, that the final answer to the repeated question: "Does God save men, does Spirit work towards the regeneration of humanity (the same thing), one by one, or in groups?" is this: that the proposed alternative is illusory. We cannot say that the Divine action in the world as we know it, is either merely social or merely individual; but both. And the next question—a highly practical question—is, "How both?" For the answer to this, if we can find it, will give us at last a formula by which we can true up our own effort toward completeness of self-expression in the here-and-now.
How, then, are groups of men moved up to higher spiritual levels; helped to such an actual possession of power and love and a sound mind as shall transfigure and perfect their lives? For this, more than all else, is what we now want to achieve. I speak in generalities, and of average human nature, not of these specially sensitive or gifted individuals who are themselves the revealers of Reality to their fellow-men.
History suggests, I think, that this group-regeneration is effected in the last resort through a special sublimation of the herd-instinct; that is, the full and willing use on spiritual levels of the characters which are inherent in human gregariousness.150150 A good general discussion in Tansley: "The New Psychology and its Relation to Life," Caps. 19, 20. We have looked at some of these characters in past chapters. Our study of them suggests, that the first stage in any social regeneration is likely to be brought about by the instinctive rallying of individuals about a natural leader, strong enough to compel and direct them; and whose appeal is to the impulsive life, to an acknowledged of unacknowledged lack or craving, not to the faculty of deliberate choice. This leader, then, must offer new life and love, not intellectual solutions. He must be able to share with his flock his own ardour and apprehension of Reality; and evoke from them the profound human impulse to imitation. They will catch his enthusiasm, and thus receive the suggestions of his teaching and of his life. This first stage, supremely illustrated in the disciples of Christ, and again in the groups who gathered round such men as St. Francis, Fox, or Booth, is re-experienced in a lesser way in every successful revival: and each genuine restoration of the life of Spirit, whether its declared aim be social or religious, has a certain revivalistic character. We must therefore keep an eye on these principles of discipleship and contagion, as likely to govern any future spiritualization of our own social life; looking for the beginnings of true reconstruction, not to the general dissemination of suitable doctrines, but to the living burning influence of an ardent soul. And I may add here, as the corollary of this conclusion, first that the evoking and fostering of such ardour is in itself a piece of social service of the highest value, and next that it makes every individual socially responsible for the due sharing of even the small measure of ardour, certitude or power he or she has received. We are to be conductors of the Divine energy; not to insulate it. There is of course nothing new in all this: but there is nothing new fundamentally in the spiritual life, save in St. Augustine's sense of the eternal youth and freshness of all beauty.151151 A good general discussion in Tansley: "The New Psychology and its Relation to Life," Caps. 19, 20. The only novelty which we can safely introduce will be in the terms in which we describe it; the perpetual new exhibition of it within the time-world, the fresh and various applications which we can give to its abiding laws, in the special circumstances and opportunities of our own day.
But the influence of the crowd-compeller, the leader, whether in the crude form of the revivalist or in the more penetrating and enduring form of the creative mystic or religious founder, the loyalty and imitation of the disciple, the corporate and generalized enthusiasm of the group can only be the first educative phase in any veritable incarnation of Spirit upon earth. Each member of the herd is now committed to the fullest personal living-out of the new life he has received. Only in so far as the first stage of suggestion and imitation is carried over to the next stage of personal actualization, can we say that there is any real promotion of spiritual life: any hope that this life will work a true renovation of the group into which it has been inserted and achieve the social phase.
If, then, it does achieve the social phase what stages may we expect it to pass through, and by what special characters will it be graced?
Let us look back for a moment at some of our conclusions about the individual life. We said that this life, if fully lived, exhibited the four characters of work and contemplation, self-discipline and service: deepening and incarnating within its own various this-world experience its other-world apprehensions of Eternity, of God. Its temper should thus be both social and ascetic. It should be doubly based, on humility and on given power. Now the social order—more exactly, the social organism—in which Spirit is really to triumph, can only be built up of individuals who do with a greater or less perfection and intensity exhibit these characters, some upon independent levels of creative freedom, some on those of discipleship: for here all men are not equal, and it is humbug to pretend that they are. This social order, being so built of regenerate units, would be dominated by these same implicits of the regenerate consciousness; and would tend to solve in their light the special problems of community life. And this unity of aim would really make of it one body; the body of a fully socialized and fully spiritualized humanity, which perhaps we might without presumption describe as indeed the son of God.
The life of such a social organism, its growth, its cycle of corporate behaviour, would be strung on that same fourfold cord which combined the desires and deeds of the regenerate self into a series: namely, Penitence, Surrender, Recollection, and Work. It would be actuated first by a real social repentance. That is, by a turning from that constant capitulation to its past, to animal and savage impulse, the power of which our generation at least knows only too well; and by the complementary effort to unify vigorous instinctive action and social conscience. I think every one can find for themselves some sphere, national, racial, industrial, financial, in which social penitence could work; and the constant corporate fall-back into sin, which we now disguise as human nature, or sometimes—even more insincerely—as economic and political necessity, might be faced and called by its true name. Such a social penitence—such a corporate realization of the mess that we have made of things—is as much a direct movement of the Spirit, and as great an essential of regeneration, as any individual movement of the broken and contrite heart.
Could a quick social conscience, aware of obligations to Reality which do not end with making this world a comfortable place—though we have not even managed that for the majority of men—feel quite at ease, say, after an unflinching survey of our present system of State punishment? Or after reading the unvarnished record of our dealings with the problem of Indian immigration into Africa? Or after considering the inner nature of international diplomacy and finance? Or even, to come nearer home, after a stroll through Hoxton: the sort of place, it is true, which we have not exactly made on purpose but which has made itself because we have not, as a community, exercised our undoubted powers of choice and action in an intelligent and loving way. Can we justify the peculiar characteristics of Hoxton: congratulate ourselves on the amount of light, air and beauty which its inhabitants enjoy, the sort of children that are reared in it, as the best we can do towards furthering the racial aim? It is a monument of stupidity no less than of meanness. Yet the conception of God which the whole religious experience of growing man presses on us, suggests that both intelligence and love ought to characterize His ideal for human life. Look then at these, and all the other things of the same kind. Look at our attitude towards prostitution, at the drink traffic, at the ugliness and injustice of the many institutions which we allow to endure. Look at them in the Universal Spirit; and then consider, whether a searching corporate repentance is not really the inevitable preliminary of a social and spiritual advance. All these things have happened because we have as a body consistently fallen below our best possible, lacked courage to incarnate our vision in the political sphere. Instead, we have, acted on the crowd level, swayed by unsublimated instincts of acquisition, disguised lust, self-preservation, self-assertion, and ignoble fear: and such a fall-back is the very essence of social sin.
We have made many plans and elevations; but we have not really tried to build Jerusalem either in our own hearts or in "England's pleasant land." Blake thought that the preliminary of such a building up of the harmonious social order must be the building up or harmonizing of men, of each man; and when this essential work was really done, Heaven's "Countenance Divine" would suddenly declare itself "among the dark Satanic mills."152152 Blake; "Jerusalem." What was wrong with man, and ultimately therefore with society, was the cleavage between his "Spectre" or energetic intelligence, and "Emanation" or loving imagination. Divided, they only tormented one another. United, they were the material of divine humanity. Now the complementary affirmative movement which shall balance and complete true social penitence will be just such a unification and dedication of society's best energies and noblest ideals, now commonly separated. The Spectre is attending to economics: the Emanation is dreaming of Utopia. We want to see them united, for from this union alone will come the social aspect for surrender. That is to say, a single-minded, unselfish yielding to those good social impulses which we all feel from time to time, and might take more seriously did, we realize them as the impulsions of holy and creative Spirit pressing us towards novelty, giving us our chance; our small actualization of the universal tendency to the Divine. As it is, we do feel a little uncomfortable when these stirrings reach us; but commonly console ourselves with the thought that their realization is at present outside the sphere of practical politics. Yet the obligation of response to those stirrings is laid on all who feel them; and unless some will first make this venture of faith, our possible future will never be achieved. Christ was born among those who expected the Kingdom of God. The favouring atmosphere of His childhood is suggested by these words. It is our business to prepare, so far as we may, a favourable atmosphere and environment for the children who will make the future: and this environment is not anything mysterious, it is simply ourselves. The men and women who are now coming to maturity, still supple to experience and capable of enthusiastic and disinterested choice—that is, of surrender in the noblest sense—will have great opportunities of influencing those who are younger than themselves. The torch is being offered to them; and it is of vital importance to the unborn future that they should grasp and hand it on, without worrying about whether their fingers are going to be burnt. If they do grasp it, they may prove to be the bringers in of a new world, a fresh and vigorous social order, which is based upon true values, controlled by a spiritual conception of life; a world in which this factor is as freely acknowledged by all normal persons, as is the movement of the earth round the sun.
I do not speak here of fantastic dreams about Utopias, or of the coloured pictures of the apocalyptic imagination; but of a concrete genuine possibility, at which clear-sighted persons have hinted again and again. Consider our racial past. Look at the Piltdown skull: reconstruct the person or creature whose brain that skull contained, and actualize the directions in which his imperious instincts, his vaguely conscious will and desire, were pressing into life. They too were expressions of Creative Spirit; and there is perfect continuity between his vital impulse and our own. Now, consider one of the better achievements of civilization; say the life of a University, with its devotion to disinterested learning, its conservation of old beauty and quest of new truth. Even if we take its lowest common measure, the transfiguration of desire is considerable. Yet in the things of the Spirit we must surely acknowledge ourselves still to be primitive men; and no one can say that it yet appears what we shall be. All really depends on the direction in which human society decides to push into experience, the surrender which it makes to the impulsion of the Spirit; how its tendency to novelty is employed, the sort of complex habits which are formed by it, as more and more crude social instinct is lifted up into conscious intention, and given the precision of thought.
In our regenerate society, then, if we ever get it, the balanced moods of Repentance of our racial past and Surrender to our spiritual calling, the pull-forward of the Spirit of Life even in its most austere difficult demands, will control us; as being the socialized extensions of these same attitudes of the individual soul. And they will press the community to those same balanced expressions of its instinct for reality, which completed the individual life: that is to say, to Recollection and Work. In the furnishing of a frame for the regular social exercise of recollection—the gathering in of the corporate mind and its direction to eternal values, the abiding foundations of existence; the consideration of all its problems in silence and peace; the dramatic and sacramental expression of its unity and of its dependence on the higher powers of life—in all this, the institutional religion of the future will perhaps find its true sphere of action, and take its rightful place in the socialized life of the Spirit.
Finally, the work which is done by a community of which the inner life is controlled by these three factors will be the concrete expression of these factors in the time-world; and will perpetuate and hand on all that is noble, stable and reasonable in human discovery and tradition, whether in the sphere of conduct, of thought, of creation, of manual labour, or the control of nature, whilst remaining supple towards the demands and gifts of novelty. New value will be given to craftsmanship and a sense of dedication—now almost unknown—to those who direct it. Consider the effect of this attitude on worker, trader, designer, employer: how many questions would then answer themselves, how many sore places would be healed.
It is not necessary, in order to take sides with this possible new order and work for it, that we should commit ourselves to any one party or scheme of social reform. Still less is it necessary to suppose such reform the only field in which the active and social side of the spiritual life is to be lived. Repentance, surrender, recollection and industry can do their transfiguring work in art, science, craftsmanship, scholarship, and play: making all these things more representative of reality, nearer our own best possible, and so more vivid and worth while. If Tauler was right, and all kinds of skill are gifts of the Holy Ghost—a proposition which no thorough-going theist can refuse—then will not a reference back on the part of the worker to that fontal source of power make for humility and perfection in all work? Personally I am not at all afraid to recognize a spiritual element in all good craftsmanship, in the delighted and diligent creation of the fine potter, smith or carpenter, in the well-tended garden and beehive, the perfectly adjusted home; for do not all these help the explication of the one Spirit of Life in the diversity of His gifts?
The full life of the Spirit must be more rich and various in its expression than any life that we have yet known, and find place for every worthy and delightful activity. It does not in the least mean a bloodless goodness; a refusal of fun and everlasting fuss about uplift. But it does mean looking at and judging each problem in a particular light, and acting on that judgment without fear. Were this principle established, and society poised on this centre, reforms would follow its application almost automatically; specific evils would retreat. New knowledge of beauty would reveal the ugliness of many satisfactions which we now offer to ourselves, and new love the defective character of many of our social relations. Certain things would therefore leave off happening, would go; because the direction of desire had changed. I do not wish to particularize, for this only means blurring the issue by putting forward one's own pet reforms. But I cannot help pointing out that we shall never get spiritual values out of a society harried and tormented by economic pressure, or men and women whose whole attention is given up to the daily task of keeping alive. This is not a political statement: it is a plain fact that we must face. Though the courageous lives of the poor, their patient endurance of insecurity may reveal a nobility that shames us, it still remains true that these lives do not represent the most favourable conditions of the soul. It is not poverty that matters; but strain and the presence of anxiety and fear, the impossibility of detachment. Therefore this oppression at least would have to be lightened, before the social conscience could be at ease. Moreover as society advances along this way, every—even the most subtle—kind of cruelty and exploitation of self-advantage obtained to the detriment of other individuals, must tend to be eliminated; because here the drag-back of the past will be more and more completely conquered, its instincts fully sublimated, and no one will care to do those things any more. Bringing new feelings and more real concepts to our contact with our environment, we shall, in accordance with the law of apperception, see this environment in a different way; and so obtain from it a fresh series of experiences. The scale of pain and pleasure will be altered. We shall feel a searching responsibility about the way in which our money is made, and about any disadvantages to others which our amusements or comforts may involve.
Here, perhaps, it is well to register a protest against the curious but prevalent notion that any such concentrated effort for the spiritualization of society must tend to work itself out in the direction of a maudlin humanitarianism, a soft and sentimental reading of life. This idea merely advertises once more the fact that we still have a very mean and imperfect conception of God, and have made the mistake of setting up a water-tight bulkhead; between His revelation, in nature and His discovery in the life of prayer. It shows a failure to appreciate the stern, heroic aspect of Reality; the element of austerity in all genuine religion, the distinction between love and sentimentalism, the rightful place of risk, effort, even suffering, in all full achievement and all joy. If we are surrendered in love to the purposes of the Spirit, we are committed to the bringing out of the best possible in life; and this is a hard business, involving a quite definite social struggle with evil and atavism, in which some one is likely to be hurt. But surely that manly spirit of adventure which has driven men to the North Pole and the desert, and made them battle with delight against apparently impossible odds, can here find its appropriate sublimation?
If anyone who has followed these arguments, and now desires to bring them from idea into practice, asks: "What next?" the answer simply is—Begin. Begin with ourselves; and if possible, do not begin in solitude. "The basal principles of all collective life," says McDougall, "are sympathetic contagion, mass suggestion, imitation":153153 "Social Psychology," Cap. i. and again and again the history of spiritual experience illustrates this law, that its propagation is most often by way of discipleship and the corporate life, not by the intensive culture of purely solitary effort. It is for those who believe in the spiritual life to take full advantage now of this social suggestibility of man; though without any detraction from the prime importance of the personal spiritual life. Therefore, join up with somebody, find fellowship; whether it be in a church or society, or among a few like-minded friends. Draw together for mutual support, and face those imperatives of prayer and work which we have seen to be the condition of the fullest living-out of our existence. Fix and keep a reasonably balanced daily rule. Accept leadership where you find it—give it, if you feel the impulse and the strength. Do not wait for some grand opportunity, and whilst you are waiting stiffen in the wrong shape. The great opportunity may not be for us, but for the generation whose path we now prepare: and we do our best towards such preparation, if we begin in a small and humble way the incorporation of our hopes and desires as for instance Wesley and the Oxford Methodists did. They sought merely to put their own deeply felt ideas into action quite simply and without fuss; and we know how far the resulting impulse spread. The Bab movement in the East, the Salvation Army at home, show us this principle still operative; what a "little flock" dominated by a suitable herd-leader and swayed by love and adoration can do—and these, like Christianity itself, began as small and inconspicuous groups. It may be that our hope for the future depends on the formation of such groups—hives of the Spirit—in which the worker of every grade, the thinker, the artist, might each have their place: obtaining from incorporation the herd-advantages of mutual protection and unity of aim, and forming nuclei to which others could adhere.
Such a small group—and I am now thinking of something quite practical, say to begin with a study-circle, or a company of like-minded friends with a definite rule of life—may not seem to the outward eye very impressive. Regarded as a unit, it will even tend to be inferior to its best members: but it will be superior to the weakest, and with its leader will possess a dynamic character and reproductive power which he could never have exhibited alone. It should form a compact organization, both fervent and business-like; and might take as its ideal a combination of the characteristic temper of the contemplative order, with that of active and intelligent Christianity as seen in the best type of social settlement. This double character of inwardness and practicality seems to me to be essential to its success; and incorporation will certainly help it to be maintained. The rule should be simple and unostentatious, and need indeed be little more than the "heavenly rule" of faith, hope, and charity. This will involve first the realization of man's true life within a spiritual world-order, his utter dependence upon its realities and powers of communion with them; next his infinite possibilities of recovery and advancement; last his duty of love to all other selves and things. This triple law would be applied without shirking to every problem of existence; and the corporate spirit would be encouraged by meetings, by associated prayer, and specially I hope by the practice of corporate silence. Such a group would never permit the intrusion of the controversial element, but would be based on mutual trust; and the fact that all the members shared substantially the same view of human life, strove though in differing ways for the same ideals, were filled by the same enthusiasms, would allow the problems and experiences of the Spirit to be accepted as real, and discussed with frankness and simplicity. Thus oases of prayer and clear thinking might be created in our social wilderness, gradually developing such power and group-consciousness as we see in really living religious bodies. The group would probably make some definite piece of social work, or some definite question, specially its own. Seeking to judge the problem this presented in the Universal Spirit, it would work towards a solution, using for this purpose both heart and head. It would strive in regard to the special province chosen and solution reached to make its weight felt, either locally or nationally, in a way the individual could never hope to do; and might reasonably hope that its conclusions and its actions would exceed in balance and sanity those which any one of the members could have achieved alone.
I think that these groups would develop their own discipline, not borrow its details from the past: for they would soon find that some drill was necessary to them, and that luxury, idleness, self-indulgence and indifference to the common-good were in conflict with the inner spirit of the herd. They would inevitably come to practise that sane asceticism, not incompatible with gaiety of heart, which consists in concentration on the real, and quiet avoidance of the attractive sham. Plainness and simplicity do help the spiritual life, and these are more easy and wholesome when practised in common than when they are displayed by individuals in defiance of the social order that surrounds them. The differences of temperament and of spiritual level in the group members would prevent monotony; and insure that variety of reaction to the life of the Spirit which we so much wish to preserve. Those whose chief gift was for action would thus be directly supported by those natural contemplatives who might, if they remained in solitude, find it difficult to make their special gift serve their fellows as it must. Group-consciousness would cause the spreading and equalization of that spiritual sensitiveness which is, as a matter of fact, very unequally distributed amongst men. And in the backing up of the predominantly active workers by the organized prayerful will of the group, all the real values of intercession would be obtained: for this has really nothing to do with trying to persuade God to do specific acts, it is a particular way of exerting love, and thus of reaching and using spiritual power.
This incorporation, as I see it, would be made for the express purpose of getting driving force with which to act directly upon life. For spirituality, as we have seen all along, must not be a lovely fluid notion or a merely self-regarding education; but an education for action, for the insertion of eternal values into the time-world, in conformity with the incarnational philosophy which justifies it. Such action—such Insertion—depends on constant recourse to the sources of spiritual power. At present we tend to starve our possible centres of regeneration, or let them starve themselves, by our encouragement of the active at the expense of the contemplative life; and till this is mended, we shall get nothing really done. Forgetting St. Teresa's warning, that to give our Lord a perfect service, Martha and Mary must combine,154154 "The Interior Castle": Sleuth Habitation, Cap. IV. we represent the service of man as being itself an attention to God; and thus drain our best workers of their energies, and leave them no leisure for taking in Fresh supplies. Often they are wearied and confused by the multiplicity in which they must struggle; and they are not taught and encouraged to seek the healing experience of unity. Hence even our noblest teachers often show painful signs of spiritual exhaustion, and tend to relapse into the formal repetition of a message which was once a burning fire.
The continued force of any regenerative movement depends above all else on continued vivid contact with the Divine order, for the problems of the reformer are only really understood and seen in true proportion in its light. Such contact is not always easy: it is a form of work. After a time the weary and discouraged will need the support of discipline if they are to do it. Therefore definite role of silence and withdrawal—perhaps an extension of that system of periodical retreats which is one of the most hopeful features of contemporary religious life—is essential to any group-scheme for the general and social furtherance of the spiritual life. It is not to be denied for a moment, that countless good men and women who love the world in the divine and not in the self-regarding sense, are busy all their lives long in forwarding the purposes of the Spirit: which is acting through them, as truly as through the conscious prophets and regenerators of the race. But, to return for a moment to psychological language, whilst the Divine impulsion remains for us below the threshold, it is not doing all that it could for us nor we all that we could do for it; for we are not completely unified. We can by appropriate education bring up that imperative yet dim impulsion to conscious realization, and wittingly dedicate to its uses our heart, mind and will; and such realization in its most perfect form appears to be the psychological equivalent of the state which is described by spiritual writers, in their own special language, as "union with God."
I have been at some pains to avoid the use of this special language of the mystics; but now perhaps we may remind ourselves that, by the declaration of all who have achieved it, the mature spiritual life is such a condition of completed harmony—such a theopathetic state. Therefore here to-day, in the worst confusions of our social scramble, no less that in the Indian forest or the mediæval cloister, man's really religious method and self-expression must be harmonious with a life-process of which this is the recognized if distant goal: and in all the work of restatement, this abiding objective must be kept in view. Such union, such full identification with the Divine purpose, must be a social as well as an individual expression of full life. It cannot be satisfied by the mere picking out of crumbs of perfection from the welter, but must mean in the end that the real interests of society are indentical with the interests of Creative Spirit, in so far as these are felt and known by man; the interests, that is, of a love that is energy and an energy that is love. Towards this identification, the willed tendency of each truly awakened individual must steadfastly be set; and also the corporate desire of each group, as expressed in its prayer and work. For the whole secret of life lies in directed desire.
A wide-spreading love to all in common, says Ruysbroeck in a celebrated passage, is the authentic mark of a truly spiritual man.155155"The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage," Bk. II, Cap. 44. In this phrase is concealed the link between the social and personal aspects of the spiritual life. It means that our passional nature with its cravings and ardours, instead of making self-centred whirlpools, flows out in streams of charity and power towards all life. And we observe too that the Ninth Perfection of the Buddhist is such a state of active charity. "In his loving, sympathizing, joyful and steadfast mind he will recognize himself in all things, and will shed warmth and light on the world in all directions out of his great, deep, unbounded heart."156156 Warren: "Buddhism in Translations," p. 28.
Let this, then, be the teleological objective on which the will and the desire of individual and group are set: and let us ask what it involves, and how it is achieved. It involves all the ardour, tenderness and idealism of the lover, spent not on one chosen object but on all living things. Thus it means an immense widening of the arc of human sympathy; and this it is not possible to do properly, unless we have found the centre of the circle first. The glaring defect of current religion—I mean the vigorous kind, not the kind that is responsible for empty churches—is that it spends so much time in running round the arc, and rather takes the centre for granted. We see a great deal of love in generous-minded people, but also a good many gaps in it which reference to the centre might help us to find and to mend. Some Christian people seem to have a difficulty about loving reactionaries, and some about loving revolutionaries. And in institutional religion there are people of real ardour, called by those beautiful names Catholic and Evangelical, who do not seem able to see each other in the light of this wide-spreading love. Yet they would meet at the centre. And it is at the centre that the real life of the Spirit aims first; thence flowing out to the circumference—even to its most harsh, dark, difficult and rugged limits—in unbroken streams of generous love.
Such love is creative. It does not flow along the easy paths, spending itself on the attractive. It cuts new channels, goes where it is needed, and has as its special vocation—a vocation identical with that of the great artist—the "loving of the unlovely into lovableness." Thus does it participate according to its measure in the work of Divine incarnation. This does not mean a maudlin optimism, or any other kind of sentimentality; for as we delve more deeply into life, we always leave sentimentality behind. But it does mean a love which is based on a deep understanding of man's slow struggles and of the unequal movements of life, and is expressed in both arduous and highly skillful actions. It means taking the grimy, degraded, misshapen, and trying to get them right; because we feel that essentially they can be right. And further, of course, it means getting behind them to the conditions that control their wrongness; and getting these right if we can. Consider what human society would be if each of its members—not merely occasional philanthropists, idealists or saints, but financiers, politicians, traders, employers, employed—had this quality of spreading a creative love: if the whole impulse of life in every man and woman were towards such a harmony, first with God, and then with all other things and souls. There is nothing unnatural in this conception. It only means that our vital energy would flow in its real channel at last. Where then would be our most heart-searching social problems? The social order then would really be an order; tallying with St. Augustine's definition of a virtuous life as the ordering of love.
What about the master and the worker in such a possibly regenerated social order? Consider alone the immense release of energy for work needing to be done, if the civil wars of civilized man could cease and be replaced by that other mental fight, for the upbuilding of Jerusalem: how the impulse of Creative Spirit, surely working in humanity, would find the way made clear. Would not this, at last, actualize the Pauline dream, of each single citizen as a member of the Body of Christ? It is because we are not thus attuned to life, and surrendered to it, that our social confusion arises; the conflict of impulse within society simply mirrors the conflict of impulse within each individual mind.
We know that some of the greatest movements of history, veritable transformations of the group-mind, can be traced back to a tiny beginning in the faithful spiritual experience and response of some one man, his contact with the centre which started the ripples of creative love. If, then, we could elevate such universalized individuals into the position of herd-leaders, spread their secret, persuade society first to imitate them, and then to share their point of view, the real and sane, because love-impelled social revolution might begin. It will begin, when more and ever more people find themselves unable to participate in, or reap advantage from, the things which conflict with love: when tender emotion in man is so universalized, that it controls the instincts of acquisitiveness and of self-assertion. There are already for each of us some things in which we cannot participate, because they conflict too flagrantly with some aspect of our love, either for truth, or for justice, or for humanity, or for God; and these things each individual, according to his own level of realization, is bound to oppose without compromise. Most of us have enough widespreading love to be—for instance—quite free from temptation to be cruel, at any rate directly, to children or to animals. I say nothing about the indirect tortures which our sloth and insensitiveness still permit. Were these first flickers made ardent, and did they control all our reactions to life—and there is nothing abnormal, no break in continuity involved in this, only a reasonable growth—then, new paths of social discharge would have been made for-our chief desires and impulses; and along these they would tend more and more to flow freely and easily, establishing new social-habits, unhampered by solicitations from our savage past. To us already, on the whole, these solicitations are less insistent than they were to the men of earlier centuries. We see their gradual defeat in slave emancipation, factory acts, increased religious tolerance, every movement towards social justice, every increase of the arc over which our obligations to other men obtain. They must now disguise themselves as patriotic or economic necessities, if we are to listen to them: as, in the Freudian dream, our hidden unworthy wishes slip through into consciousness in a symbolic form. But when their energy has been fully sublimated, the social action will no longer be a conflict but a harmony. Then we shall live the life of Spirit; and from this life will flow all love-inspired reform.
Yet we are, above all, to avoid the conclusion that the spiritual life, in its social expression, shall necessarily push us towards mere change; that novelty contains everything, and stability nothing, of the will of the Spirit for the race. Surely our aim shall be this: that religious sensitiveness shall spread, as our discovery of religion in the universe spreads, so that at last every man's reaction to the whole of experience shall be entinctured with Reality, coloured by this dominant feeling-tone. Spirit would then work from within outwards, and all life personal and social, mental and physical, would be moulded by its inspiring power. And in looking here for our best hope of development, we remain safely within history; and do not strive for any desperate pulling down or false simplification of our complex existence, such as has wrecked many attempts to spiritualize society in the past.
Consider the way by which we have come. We found in man an instinct for a spiritual Reality. A single, concrete, objective Fact, transcending yet informing his universe, compels his adoration, and is apperceived by him in three main ways. First, as the very Being, Heart and Meaning of that universe, the universal of all universals, next as a Presence including and exceeding the best that personality can mean to him, last as an indwelling and energizing Life. We saw in history the persistent emergence of a human type so fully aware of this Reality as to subdue to its interests all the activities of life; ever seeking to incarnate its abiding values in the world of time. And further, psychology suggested to us, even in its tentative new findings, its exploration of our strange mental deeps, reason for holding such surrender to the purposes of the Spirit to represent the condition of man's fullest psychic health, and access to his real sources of power. We found in the universal existence of religious institutions further evidence of this profound human need of spirituality. We saw there the often sharp and sky-piercing intensity of the individual aptitude for Reality enveloped, tempered and made wholesome by the social influences of the cultus and the group: made too, available for the community by the symbolisms that cultus had preserved. So that gradually the life of the Spirit emerged for us as something most actual, not archaic: a perennial possibility of newness, of regeneration, a widening of our span of pain and joy. A human fact, completing and most closely linked with those other human facts, the vocation to service, to beauty, to truth. A fact, then, which must control our view of personal self-discipline, of education, and of social effort: since it refers to the abiding Reality which alone gives all these their meaning and worth, and which man, consciously or unconsciously, must pursue.
And last, if we ask as a summing up of the whole matter: Why man is thus to seek the Eternal, through, behind and within the ever-fleeting? The answer is that he cannot, as a matter of fact, help doing it sooner or later: for his heart is never at rest, till it finds itself there. But he often wastes a great deal of time before he realizes this. And perhaps we may find the reason why man—each man—is thus pressed towards some measure of union with Reality, in the fact that his conscious will thus only becomes an agent of the veritable purposes of life: of that Power which, in and through mankind, conserves and slowly presses towards realization the noblest aspirations of each soul. This power and push we may call if we like in the language of realism the tendency of our space-time universe towards deity; or in the language of religion, the working of the Holy Spirit. And since, so far as we know, it is only in man that life becomes self-conscious, and ever more and more self-conscious, with the deepening and widening of his love and his thought; so it is only in man that it can dedicate the will and desire which are life's central qualities to the furtherance of this Divine creative aim.
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